Project: drive revamp

Diary of a garden overhaul

Raised bed in August
Raised bed in August

Undertaking a big gardening project can be daunting and terrifying, but the key is to break it down into smaller tasks, which means you can see progress and get a feeling of completion (even if the overall thing’s a building site).

Goodbye concrete, hello gravel, raised beds and planting pockets – how the drive area of my garden progressed from February-October 2014. Obviously, it continues to change, as plants outgrow their places.


FEBRUARY: L-shaped dilemma

Drive border
The border by the drive, bare and hacked back, February 2014

My long, narrow, L-shaped garden will be familiar to anyone living on the end of a street – how to disguise the shape without it looking like two chunks?

The easiest method was creating a continuous surface.

There had been a brick-edged border, against an expanse of concrete, then paving slabs, all of which reinforced the straight lines.

Now there’s a curving brick path through gravel with planting pockets. The border has been incorporated into the pond area, so the whole area flows around the corner.

New drive raised bed with gravel surface and winding brick path, early March 2014
New drive raised bed with gravel surface and winding brick path, early March 2014

The big Fatsia japonica, Spiraea japonica, and the old apple tree stayed put.

A white/cream repeat-flowering rose, Claire Austin, was added to climb the tree.

Weigela Bristol Ruby, Sedum Autumn Joy, Helianthus Lemon Queen, Coprosma Pacific Sunset, Campanula carpatica, Achillea mollis, Eryngium The Hobbit, Lysimachia, variegated lemon balm and Aquilegia were moved/divided.

Additions included Angelica gigas, Cobaea scandens (cup-and-saucer vine) in a huge blue ceramic pot, a giant Himalayan lily (Cardiocrinum) and Sambucus niger.


EARLY MARCH: raised bed challenge

Climbing rose James Galway
Climbing rose James Galway

After the builder finished our emergency fence in October 2013 and the new raised bed was filled with a rotted-down turf/Dalefoot Compost/grow bag mixture, it was time to think about planting.

Despite being hacked down, Clematis montana, Buddleia and an everlasting pea survived.

I tried to restrict myself to a pink/blue/purple/white colour scheme, with some gold. I decided on climbing scented roses – two James Galway (www.davidaustinroses.com). The flowers are warm pink in the centre, fading towards the edges, with a medium old rose fragrance. The stems are almost thornless and grow up to 8ft.

The centrepiece is the spineless variegated holly (Ilex x altaclerensis Lawsoniana), a female with bright golden variegation. My plan is to clip it into a pyramid when it reaches the top of the fence for winter structure.

For foliage accents, there’s a globe artichoke (which has ended up being the header picture of my site) and a golden hop (Humulus lupulus Aureus).

Sweet pea mix Royal Family (pinks, purples, white) climbed up the fence, along with a bit of everlasting pea that didn’t deserve to be there.

Golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia Aurea) underpinned a couple of Rodgersia divisions at the shady end.

Spring 2016 update: The shady end now has a honeysuckle in the bed, rather than in the pot along with an ivy, trying to cover that end of the fence.


LATE MARCH:  perennials go in

golden hop, Vernonica, Shasta daisies and Heuchera
Raised bed September with golden hop, Veronica, Shasta daisies and Heuchera

The perennials came from Plant Me Now.

6 x Shasta daisy Aglaia: white, frilly daisies, yellow eye, flowers May-October (height 1m).

3 x Veronica Atomic Silvery Pink Ray: spikes of pale pink flowers from June-September (h. 40cm).

3 x Heuchera Silver Blush: silver foliage, purple veins and undersides, feathery sprays of pink-white flowers, May-July (h. 30cm).

4 x Geranium Rozanne: voted RHS Plant of the Century. Sky blue flowers from May-October. (h.45cm).

3 x Euphorbia polychroma Purpurea: purple foliage and stems, lime-green flowers from April-June. (h.40cm).


MAY: Annuals and planting pockets

Stunning colours of Antirrhinum Purple Twist
Stunning colours of Antirrhinum Purple Twist
Nasturtium
Self-seeded Nasturtium peeping through the fence in November

Sweet pea Royal Family Mixed and Antirrhinum Purple Twist F1, both grown from seed, were transplanted and flowered from June until the first frosts.

Various nasturtiums joined them later in the season (they had self seeded into the recycled grow bags).

The sweet peas’ space is now taken up by the rejuvenated Clematis montana.

Planting pockets were created in the gravel at the shady and sunny ends of the new bed, to soften the brickwork a bit (lovely though it is).

Soft shield fern and hosta Big Daddy
Soft shield fern and hosta Big Daddy

These now house soft shield ferns (Polystichum setiferum), hosta Big Daddy, foxgloves and Dianthus deltoides.

They’ve been planted with plenty of home-made composts and loam.

At the sunny corner, there’s Stipa gigantea (a foolish place, but there you go). Surprisingly, they all seem reasonably happy.


AUGUST-OCTOBER: full bloom!

Angelica gigas
Angelica gigas in the drive bed – with guests

A bare patch of ground can be daunting, but the new bed filled up in just four months, thanks to a mix of new herbaceous perennials, divisions, plus a few survivors that shouldn’t have made it from the rebuilding work.

The two most remarkable are the pink everlasting pea (a piece of root must have been left in the concrete under the bed – it burst forth in May) and the Buddleia, which wasn’t in a pot and was hacked to a stump. Even the old Clematis montana has sprouted again.

Helianthus Lemon Quee
Helianthus Lemon Queen, a reliable tall, late-flowering perennial

Divisions of Rodgersia, golden creeping jenny, golden hop and a globe artichoke have come up trumps at the shady end.

Annuals to bump up the display, Antirrhinum Purple Twist F1 and sweet pea mixture Royal Family have really earned their keep.

There’s also two thornless James Galway climbing roses from David Austin, and the variegated holly, which have been fabulous.

In the other bed, divisions of Helianthus and Angelica gigas were the stars.